Star-Fired Beef


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Steam Challenge – BioShock 2

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

I have to say, I enjoyed BioShock 2 more than I did the first BioShock. I’m not sure why, though. Perhaps it’s that I was more familiar with the setting, maybe because the gameplay felt a little more streamlined, or it could be just that it was a shorter experience. Or a mix of those.

We return to the undersea city of Rapture, ten years after the events of the first game. You take the role of Subject Delta, a prototype Big Daddy that reawakens after…well, a fairly traumatic experience, which you see in the intro to the game. All through this game I couldn’t help but feel pity for Delta, a connection with the player character which I never felt in BioShock.

I both love and hate the setting of Rapture. I love the 50’s aesthetic and charm, but the whole under-the-sea thing really makes me uneasy in a way that other horror settings don’t. Speaking of uneasy, I remain quite disturbed by the language used to describe the relationships between the various protagonists – namely, Big Daddy, Little Sister, and Big Sister. It feels like a demented, twisted intimacy that makes my skin crawl, given the way it is immersed in violence and death.

In BioShock, we saw the fate of libertarianism gone mad, a Randian experiment turned nightmare. This time, we go to the opposite extreme – the attempt to create a Utopia, where everyone is taken care of and greed and selfishness is banished. Needless to say, the sacrifices made to achieve this ideal are rather horrific, and you (as Subject Delta) are an integral part of that story.

As I said at the start, BioShock 2 felt much more playable than the first one. Smoother level design, combat felt less clunky, and a tighter narrative all combined to make it quite enjoyable. I guess it is because the player is supposed to be more familiar with the broad strokes of the setting, thus the developers needed to provide less structural information. They could concentrate on moving the story along, rather than having to explain what splicers are, who the big players were and what they did, how plasmids and little sisters and ADAM fit into the world. 

Definitely recommend this game if you’ve played the first one. If not, well I don’t know how much you’ll get out of it, there is a lot of backstory you’d be missing so it would probably be rather confusing.

The Tea Party – Halcyon Days


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Steam Challenge – The Stanley Parable

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

The trailer promises so much. The Stanley Parable was to be a mindfuck of epic proportions.

It was, and it wasn’t. I am still conflicted about whether I actually enjoyed this game. The narration was fantastic, and my heart skipped a nostalgic beat when I loaded up the very Half-Life-2-esque graphics. It brought me back to the late ’90s, reminding me of both Half-Life, and Goldeneye in the atmosphere and setting. Portal gets mentioned a fair bit in comparisons, and while that is probably true, for me that is not as strong an association.

So what is the problem? Why am I not more committed to a judgement? Honestly, I am not sure. I tend to love games that play the mindfuck card, that leave you guessing as to what really happened, that leave a lot of stuff unanswered. And while it is usually the narrative that provides that experience, in The Stanley Parable it is the game world that does it. That makes the experience more intense, more fulfilling, and so more enjoyable in a lot of ways.

On the other hand, I think it overshot the mark in some respects. It felt like the payoff graph was a bell curve. At the start you are totally clueless, and everything is bizarre. As you play there is greater understanding, which allows you to explore more purposefully and feel like you are getting some sort of progress, i.e. learning more. Then, I found that after a number of playthroughs, I wasn’t getting enough new stuff to keep up the motivation to repeat content ad infinitum. It became a chore, and so I stopped.

I consider The Stanley Parable to be an amazing example of blurring the lines between games and art/philosophy, or of games as art. As a game it is still basic, although more involved than something like Gone Home or a visual novel. I definitely enjoyed it more as an artistic endeavour than as a game experience.

The Tea Party – Great Big Lie


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Steam Challenge – Race The Sun

This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).

I found earlier in the year that there are certain games that I find quite relaxing, surprisingly so. Games like BIT.TRIP Runner, and PixelJunk Eden. Now we can add another to that list: Race The Sun.

This game is a shining example of putting gameplay over graphics. It would undoubtedly be better if it were prettier, but when you are playing, it doesn’t matter at all. The simple polygons of the pickups and terrain are more than sufficient to let you slip into the meditative bliss of pure speed. The music is perfect for the genre, and the sound effects are very well chosen – from the chimes of the pickups to the way the music fades out when you launch into the air.

There is no point to Race The Sun, except leaderboard status and personal bests. The world changes every day, so it never feels old, yet there are familiar terrain elements in each world so you can slide back into it easily. It has more replay value than the runner type games. It’s something you can keep on standby for when the mood strikes you, like Solitaire or Minesweeper. 

I like it. I’m glad I have it. I won’t feel like I’ve “finished” it until I reach max level to get all the upgrades and unlocks (I’m currently 17 of 25), but I’ll likely always have it around for those times I need a quick relief from thinking.

The Tea Party – Sun Going Down


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Recent Loot Haul

I wanted to give a nod to the Steam Summer Sale in the title, but it’s winter here so it felt odd. And calling it the winter sale is weird too. Plus, I actually bought less games from the Steam Sale than other sources, so even highlighting Steam felt silly. Anyway…

From Steam

I managed to not go overly crazy, only spent around $25 and got some great deals. First up, I got the Forced 4-pack. I am not sure when I’ll dive into that, but it will be epiiiiiic! Startopia has been one of my sim/management must-haves for ages, so I finally snapped it up. Tomb Raider for $5 seemed too good to pass up. Satisfied my adventure point-and-click urges with the Blackwell Bundle, which contains four of the five games: Convergence, Deception, Legacy, and Unbound. Finally, picked up Polarity because a) Portal-lite, and b) it was only 19 cents, so I should make a profit on the trading cards.

Oh, and that $25 included a full copy of To The Moon (game + soundtrack) as a gift.

Bundles

Yeah, I ended up diverting Steam Sale money to a couple of bundles. I bought the Humble E3 ticket Bundle for a few bucks simply to get Wildstar, in the anticipation of having certain options already unlocked when it goes F2P. The bundle came with a bunch of other stuff I don’t care about (military shooters, cosmetics for games I don’t play, etc) or already have (Psychonauts).

The other bundle I bought was the Bundle Stars Nightmares Bundle. I am not really sure why I am attracted to some of the horror games out there, as I honestly don’t like horror very much at all. Maybe I’m saving them for a time when I have someone to whom I can turn and hide my face against. Who knows. The games in this bundle were the adventure games 1Heart, The Samaritan Paradox, and Kraven Manor; the “walking simulator”s Montague’s Mount, and The Moon Sliver; an FPS action adventure called  Betrayer; and The Path, a cool-sounding take on the Red Riding Hood tale. 

Just Call Me Sisyphus

So in a week and a half of temptation, a lot of my hard Steam Challenge work is undone. I’m finding that a lot of the games I consider the most seriously are starting to tend towards the story-heavy ones, such as adventure games and RPGs. I’ve spent a couple of hours whittling down my wishlist too, as having nearly 500 games on it was starting to become ridiculous. I’m down to under 350 at the moment, and I hope to get that under 300 before I reach the end of the list.

Warning: NSFW

The Tea Party – Temptation


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What if: Prophecies

I’m currently watching the X-Files (for the first time, yes I know you can pick up your jaw now) and just saw an episode which dealt with prognostication. Lots of stuff involving fortune tellers and psychics, but something clicked in my brain when a throwaway reference to prophecy was made.

I started to wonder: how cool would it be if there were real prophecies in an MMO? If you could find some ancient tablet written in a lost language that, when deciphered, told of some future event that was planned to be implemented by developers? If fortune tellers had vague impressions of some foe that the player will encounter, that will be introduced in the next expansion (or the next one after that)? Cryptic references to deaths, births, creation or destruction, of major NPCs and/or things and/or places?

There would, of course, be false prophecies. Rumours that got out of control. Misinterpreted signs. Deliberately false ones created to protect the secret, true ones. NPCs that are simply high on something and are just spouting nonsense.

Maybe these prophecies could just be teasers included for fun, or maybe they could replace patch notes and PTRs with regard to lore. Datamining is a big problem, of course.

It’s probably a pipe dream itself, but I thought it was fun to think about the “what if?”.