Game of the Month - May 2021

Well, maybe we need a thread for the Trails people to continue nerding out :)

That thread lost its mysterious name. So now you have to hide talk of that series in other threads. This is the way.

I applaud that explanation!

That thread was for Trails in the Sky specifically, not Legend of Heroes as a whole, was it? Maybe I should create a new thread for Cold Steel and name it

“Great JRPG series with a name that might be a reference to trains, tanks, or mechas, all at once”

Do it!

And I did. :)

Serious play:

The Little Acre: Probably never would have played this if it wasn’t on XGP. Promotional art made me think it was some weird kid-and-dog story, turns out it’s a decent little LucasArts-style adventure game about a father & daughter caught up in a weird sci-fi story. Nice art, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Some folks will probably think it skips way too much backstory, but I kind of liked the focused presentation.

Lost Artifacts, Gnomes Garden Lost King, and Royal Roads: I’ve been going through these little logistics games like popcorn at a movie. I think I’ve finally run out of them.

The Gardens Between: Cute puzzler, but less substance than I thought there might be.

Hidden Through Time: Never played a hidden-object game before, but it was cheap and I was after achievements. Probably won’t play one again. It’s either super-easy or maddeningly difficult to find those little objects.

Costume Quest: Did CQ2 last month, did this one and the DLC this month. People really do play back-compat games. Very DoubleFine-ey. Can definitely see how they improved the turn-based combat in the sequel.

Plants vs Zombies Battle For Neighborville: Having real single-player content for the first time is interesting, but the multiplayer modes are pretty limited and grinding for cosmetics and XP is only so much fun. There’s a reason this was not a full-priced title. And oh, the offers to buy in-game currency . . .

Red Faction Guerilla Remastered: Yeah, that’s not the official name, but I’m not typing that. Still holds up, but 2 very hard crashes have rendered the game unplayable. As in, can’t load any saves. Booooo. [EDIT: Had to clear local saves and re-sync]


Biomutant: Seems like they are planning to release a patch fixing my complaints about the first couple of hours of gameplay. Maybe I’ll wait a bit, then.

Supraland: This one is interesting. I thought it was a 3rd person survival game, but it’s a 1st person action-RPG. Should mess with it some more before it leaves XGP.

Hero Express: I didn’t think I’d like this as much as I do. It’s a silly little 2D driving game with a gameplay loop of: do the run, earn & apply upgrades, go a little further each time, finally win. Great for killing an hour or so.

Monster Sancutary: 2D pokemon metroidvania. Pleasant if not compelling.

Steampunk Tower 2: Literal tower defense. This one steampunk tower in particular. Lots of fiddly upgrading business to try to make the off-time engaging.

Beholder: This was weird. You are an East German-ish landlord-informer messing with your tenants’ lives and ratting them out to The State. You can choose to be truly crappy and oppressive or just regular crappy and oppressive. Kind of got in my head.

Wow. I’d heard the name Beholder plenty of times, I had no idea it was about that. I’ll have to try that out. I’m sure I probably own it on some platform.

As always, thanks for your impressions of various games.

It’s on XGP. And nice to see that somebody reads my overlong posts. :)

I spent what gaming time I could scrape together last month playing Subnautica: Below Zero with some light UI modding and generally enjoying it quite a bit, though the overland sections are starting to wear out their welcome.

I played this one too for the Game Pass Quest thingie. It also got in my head as in I have thought about it a lot while not playing it. It definitely falls in a weird place for me as I found it really depressing if I played longer than short bursts. It is roughly a game where you juggle a series of puzzles that overlap and also have strong social or behavioral dimensions to them all while real time is progressing. I kept thinking I wanted to move on to something else due to the oppressive subject matter and aesthetic but I haven’t let go of it yet.

Feels like a video game treatise on the banality of evil and how effortless it is to dehumanize others through bureaucracy. The game itself may not have anything new or profound to add to that understanding but lets one play within that dark mindset for a while.

I played almost exclusively Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’ve reached the end game, and picked up the DLC and played all of that. And have thoughts! The DLC additions fall into one of 3 categories.

Superfluous costume bits (fun, but far from essential) that could potentially be imbalanced early game, but irrelevant late.
The Champions Ballad challenges. These are the best of the lot, and have some enjoyable puzzles with them. Plus a fifth divine beast challenge, which are the best* parts of the game. A welcome addition, and worth playing
The sword trials. I saw people liken them to Eventide Island, and I get why. But I rage quit on the final set. It’s the pure length with no save. I like the concept enough, but by the 12th or 13th time you run through the initial rooms the novelty wears off. Missing a parry, or having the camera go wonky while fighting a hinox in the dark and then having to replay the same hour+ of stuff to get back to the bit is not my idea of fun. I just don’t have that kind of time. Plus miss a dodge timing by just a little bit and you may as well restart, the margins are very thin early with such limited tools. Did not like.

I’m instead ignoring the final sword trial and moving on to clearing a few items then going to fight Gannon.

*not you Gerudo beast. You sucked.

Are you sure? ; )

You should because it’s very good and because (at its core) it’s very much a puzzle game ;-)

Oh, I forgot, my Games of the Month

Pillars of Eternity and Subnautica 2. I like both very much, but real life interruptions took away the flow. Both games are hard to get back into.

And a bit of The Sinking City (yep, it’s a very mediocre even if one just wants a mediocore game it’s…missing something.)

All-in on the Mass Effect LE train.

Honorable mention to Slay the Spire, which I can’t stop playing occasionally no matter what the “main” game I’m playing happens to be.

Ha! Now I’m not!

Huh, I would call Supraland a 3-D platformer. What I liked about it is the way it teases places to explore and then places chests there to reward me for finding them. I had a grand time with it.

Game of the month was Death Stranding. I thought it was going appeal to me the way Final Fantasy VII Remake did a couple months back, so I overplayed it. Hours of deliveries and building highways that had earned no significant reward from the game. I liked the cutscenes. Yet, it never turned into a great story for me. Instead, it was meditation. One theme, retold, revisited, and re-enacted by me throughout it. That approach alone is fascinating.

Death Stranding puts serious design into its systems, as mundane or ridiculous as they may be. It is also obliquely funny to me in a lot of small ways. I don’t think anything else with that much budget is going to be as weird.

I recommend Death Stranding to everyone just to taste the Kojima juice. (Not necessarily the Monster Energy drink, but maybe related?)

Totally obsessed with Caster of Magic for Windows, the mod-turned-DLC for Master of Magic. What an update!

I loved Death Stranding myself. I’m a Kojima fan now. ;)

Supraland was definitely my game of the month. If a good game is one that balances rewards with frustration, I felt Supraland was too often on the side of frustration when I first played it, I think back in 2019 or 2020 on Steam. But that frustration comes every time I enter a new area. Ok, there’s a switch on the wall over there with no way to get to it. There’s a platform over there with nothing nearby, and a switch I can’t reach. There’s some shielded monsters in this area that I have to kill. How the hell am I supposed to solve this hodgepodge?

The surprising solution? Play the game once on Steam, and haltingly get through a lot of puzzles. Then forget about the game and play it again on Windows 10 until you start getting to new areas (which are frustrating). Old areas where you’ve already been? Even though you don’t necessarily remember them or the puzzles, the solutions come to you really easily because your brain has already solved it all once before.

I know what you’re thinking. But wait a minute, what happens when you start hitting all new areas that you didn’t play in the Steam version before? Well, you put up with the frustration for a while, until you can’t, and that’s when … you start playing the Xbox version of the game from the beginning. Now you’re a puzzle solving God who is getting through the game with no friction whatsoever, and all it is is a 3D platformer now, and it’s glorious.

Days Gone on the PC dominated my game time in the second half of May. I enjoyed the game on PS4 but the experience is so much better on PC. The graphics are sharper, the driving mechanics are more responsive, and aiming with weapons is more precise, even with a gamepad.

I was initially disappointed that I couldn’t snag a PS5 over the Christmas holidays and upgraded my PC before I was really ready to. But I am glad I did now and I think I will pass on consoles this generation.