This place has been quiet so I thought I'd go over what I've been playing and thinking about since the last time I talked about "Whatchya Been Playin." I've actually gone through a lot of quick games so far in 2016. The only major purchases I've made this year have been Street Fighter and Firewatch. Haven't played enough Street Fighter to really talk about it but as for everything else:Firewatch
Probably the best one of these "walking simulator" games I've played so far. I choose to simply think of them as adventure games that don't have a whole lot of problem solving, or maybe just interactive fiction. If you count SOMA I guess I'd put that over Firewatch but that game has dangers and problem solving and so on. Firewatch manages to not have any man-on-man conflict on it like 99.9% of video games but still manages to make you feel like you are doing something that requires your brain. Mind you, I played all the way through with the map markers turned off to go into full orienteering mode. I wish all open worlds in games were set up like this. Used to be you didn't need waypoints. It's nice to have them as an option but you shouldn't NEED them. Story was pretty good. Great dialogue. Most importantly it all worked together with a proper first person immeresive simulation framework. In that respect it's kind of the artifice of the original Deus Ex repurposed towards some pretty good interactive fiction. The last couple years have shown some really promising unfurling of the potential for video games to just tell stories, but in a way that justifies video games.Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
Right now I'm in the middle of the visual novel portion of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. If you don't know, it's the sequel to a fighting game the story to which continued the saga of the Persona 3 and Persona 4 characters. The casts from the two games actually got to meet. The only reason I even got Ultimax is for this visual novel. I'm not even big on visual novels, but I care enough about the characters in these games to sit through one involving them.
Ultimax itself also feels like a neat advancement of the visual novel aspect of these fighting games (like BlazBlue). In the last game you had to go through individual visual novels for every character, repeating a lot of events in different ways. Ultimax just has one big one (or two rather) encompassing all the characters so you get what you know is the canonical version of events. It's kinda like what the last couple Mortal Kombat games did but with a visual novel instead of cut scenes. Story modes in fighting games have seen some neat strides forward over the last few years.
As for the visual novel itself, I'd say it's definitely worth it if you felt invested in P3 and P4. It's nice to see where all the P3 characters are and what they're doing with their lives three years later. The quality of the story is about the same as those games too. The P4 protagonist is his own character now too. It seems like the whole purpose of this is to shut the book on this cast of characters once and for all before Persona 5 rolls around.Elite: Dangerous
Things are still going as usual. Found my first Earth-like planet though. Took me 65 hours of warping in and out of systems to find one. According to the game I think I'd visited around 300 systems by that point, so that's an idea of the rarity of Earth-like worlds in this game. There were a lot of water worlds though as well as planets more similar to Mars or Venus -- desert worlds with thick atmospheres that are suitable for terraforming and thus still valuable. My current objective is to reach the star at the center of the Sadir
nebula, and it has taken me hours upon hours just to get halfway. Hopefully by the time I circle back I'll have scanned enough planets and systems to afford an Asp Explorer or something... if I don't get interjected and shot down upon my re-entry into civilized space.No Man's Sky thoughts...?
It seems like Sony and Hello Games finally tried their hardest this week to explain "what do you do?" in No Man's Sky. From all the previews I've read it looks like Elite + The Long Dark... or something. The people who previewed it seemed to spend most of their time trying to survive on planet surfaces where the game is about getting resources to survive, trade, and eventually upgrade their stuff. From previous descriptions once you enter space it's basically Frontier: Elite II but geared more towards the casual audience. That's really all I wanted out of this game. I have Dangerous, but the procedural generation in NMS seems to be offering on day one what Frontier Developments is promising to bring to Dangerous a few years from now.
What sells the whole thing for me is the variance in scale -- the fact that I can walk around in a forest, hop in my ship, fly up to a space station, warp to another system 20 light years away, land in a desert, and walk around it is what completes the experience I've wanted for a long time. It's that all-encompassing world simulation. It's the main reason I play ArmA to be honest. Probably what attracted a ton of people to GTA if you ask me -- causing mayhem on the streets of a plausibly-sized city and then hopping in a car to drive halfway across it and then seeing it all from way above in a helicopter seamlessly. These are "next level" moments that make games interesting again for a lot of people, like when Ocarina of Time first came out. I understand a lot of individual elements of NMS are going to feel shallow. The shooting probably isn't going to be as refined as DOOM or the latest Call of Duty. The flying probably isn't going to be as refined as Elite. It won't have elaborate quests like The Witcher 3, but what matters is it's the game that's bringing all that stuff together to try to simulate a more complete world. It's kind of the original promise of Mass Effect 1. I still like that game the most of all three because no game since has tried to combine its third person shooting, RPG progression, space ship crew, sci-fi story, and alien surface traversal, not even the other two Mass Effect games. Get's me really curious to see if EA feels pressured to respond with Andromeda.
Talking about all that actually reminds me I still haven't started up GTA V.
Man. It took me until a few months ago to even buy the game -- for the first time too, and since then it's just been sitting on my hard drive. I guess it's the knowledge that when I do start it it'll probably suck away all my time.