Right, first of all there’s still no review for Death Stranding, but in my defense, the reason is that another game has absorbed my attention like an absorbent thing found in all the oceans. I’m sure there’s a name for it, but that isn’t important right now. What is important is that I’m about to say something deeply controversial and divisive to the gaming community at large.


Computer role play games are rarely role play games. Oh sure, they all wear the label like Buffalo Bill would slip on a lady suit had he succeeded in his plan to flay a senator’s daughter. But most are rides on rails that offer illusional choices in the guise of actual role play. But getting four dialogue choices that all steer the story in the same direction does not equal role play. Continue reading

Versus series: Monster battle!

This week I’m doing something a bit different, probably because I’m playing Death Stranding and all the Monster Energy Drink branding is getting to me. (And definitely not because I’ve failed to finish Death Stranding on time for a review this week.) I’m ranking every sugar free Monster flavor I could get my hands on to tell you who is the bomb, and who is the barf. (Literally!)

But before I begin, I should mention two things. First, because I drank uncarbonated taurine drinks as a morning beverage of choice for a few years, I actually like the taste of plain old Red Bull. Lots of folks can’t stand it, and I can understand it is either something you love or hate. Personally, I love it, so that’s my baseline flavor profile for all other brands.

Second, I’m not sure why, but at a certain point, energy drinks lost a lot of their power over my sleep habits. I’ve been known to drink one before bed and still get a good night’s sleep. I think part of this is my choice of drinking the sugar free versions, as I’ve sometimes randomly gone for the regular editions and ended up pulling an unintentional all-nighter. What I’m saying is, I can only review these based on taste, and not on how much “kick” are in them. Continue reading

Game review: Steam World Heist for Steam

I realized moments after starting Steam World Heist that I’d played the games out of order, or sort of out of order. Hand of Gilgamech is an odd entry in the series, as it could be a prequel that comes before the first Steam World Dig, or it could be a sequel taking place long after Heist. In any case, Heist is meant to follow the two Dig games, being a sequel that takes place a hundred or so years after the previous entry.

Before I get into the plot or mechanics, I will drop the early verdict and say that this was the least enjoyable of the games thus far. Like, it’s okay, but not really great or bad. The shift to turn-based strategy combined with the idea of pillaging ships for resources could have been the best pivot away from the resource management of the first two games.

Instead, this entry in the Steamverse also got shackled with resource management for the dumbest of reasons, and with a burden of a required grind with every new character introduced. But if it were just these two factors, I might still be forgiving and regard it as a good game. Instead, Steam World Heist continually makes choices to bury any hope of fun under a pile of terrible ideas. Continue reading

My GTA VI wishlist

Believe it or don’t, but I’m actually ahead of my blogging schedule for once, with a few reviews already queued up and good to go. Finding myself with free time on my hands, I decided to go back to Grand Theft Auto V to finish up the last of the story. Unlike my run on the Xbox, this time I chose to spare Trevor because even if I still don’t like him, the idea of getting rid of Steve Haines and Devin Weston was more appealing after putting up with their crap a second time around.

I’ve actually been playing GTA V a lot on PC, though I’ve frequently restarted without getting very far beyond the second heist. This is because I’m not really playing the game like other folks. I don’t go in for crazy stunts or skillful getaways from higher level police pursuits. I watch folks do that on YouTube, and of course I find it impressive. But mostly, I play to chill out.

I might get in a car and cruise around the highway while listening to the radio. Other times, I like to play golf with Franklin and his golfing buddy, Castro Lagano, or play tennis with Michael against his wife Amanda, or against a random dude at the public courts. (Though I prefer playing random strangers because Amanda was working on her backhand almost as she was on her reverse cowgirl with her tennis instructor. She’s set me up with that cross court backhand so often, I’ve had actual nightmares about it.) Sometimes, I like to steal the faster cars and get on the highway late at night to get a mostly free length of road for a real test run. And sometimes I just go for a walk to take in whatever is happening around my character. Continue reading

Manga review Spy X Family

Starting with some randomness, a while back someone I followed on Twitter wrote that they’d been told they were saying Hunter X Hunter wrong. I commented that I was doing it wrong too, though I didn’t know what the right way was. But maybe a week later, I recalled that in Italian X is shorthand for per, or for. So a sticker written as 2 X 1 is saying it’s a two for one sale. Then I also remembered that X in Japanese is often used as a shorthand for versus. So, this week’s manga review is really called Spy Versus Family. And now you know.

Anywho, I put Spy X Family on my Manga+ favorites list based solely on the overwhelmingly positive reviews for the manga as well as the anime. The premise certainly sounds great, and it’s summed up several times in the opening chapters as, “The husband is a spy. The wife is an assassin. The child is a telepath.” Meaning husband and wife do not know each other’s secrets or secret lives, but the kid knows everything.

The longer premise is that a spy from Westalis code-named Twilight is given a mission to sneak into Ostania, which has a very shaky truce with Westalis. There, he must make up a fake family, enroll a fake child into an elite private school, and use that child to get close to a member of a known war hawk political faction to learn if they have any plans to ruin the truce. So, taking on the identity of Loid Forger (really on the nose with that surname, by the by), Twilight first adopts Anya, who is telepathic, and uses that power to look like the perfect candidate even though she’s too young and definitely not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. He then uses his contacts to find the “perfect wife,” Yor Briar, who is eager to play a wife because as an assassin she’s worried about her cover being blown if she remains single. Continue reading

Game review: Steam World Dig 2 for Steam

Before getting to the review, I should apologize for being so late in posting. The review was in Word, ready to go on Friday of last week, but I got distracted with Dark Souls II. I realized I’d never used a halberd or any polearms, so I figured I’d just dip in to see how they are. Long story short, I’m just about done with the base game boss fights up to King Vendrick, and now I’m debating doing all the DLCs or just going at Nashandra and her two guards to get that pre-DLC experience. But  let’s forget that and look at this week’s game.

I bought Steam World Dig 2 a little while after its initial release based solely on the fact that I’d loved the first game and wrongly assumed it would be more of the same. At the time, my hands weren’t in great shape, and just the tutorial boss was enough to bounce me right out of the game. But I’ve been doing pretty good health-wise, and I just finished a couple harder games, so I thought I’d give this a try again.

The thing is, I got pretty close to the end of the game before realizing I’d invested in the wrong skills, and I had to start over again. So this review is based on two different impressions of the game, the first where I didn’t know what I needed to do to progress, and the second where I knew and just did the thing like Zhu Li. Continue reading

Revisiting Vampire Survivors post-DLC

If you want to reread my original review of Vampire Survivors or you missed it the first time, click here.

I actually had another review to post this week, but as I managed to get ahead of schedule for once, I decided to get the second DLC for Vampire Survivors, Tides of the Foscari. I’d already bought Legacy of the Moonspell and was left feeling underwhelmed by the experience. It’s less that there’s only one new area to explore, and more that aside from Miang Moonspell, most of the new survivors proved to be difficult to get past their fragile stages. (If you can do it, they get better, really.) On top of that, making unique builds for them felt like a chore. Lastly, given that a third of the new area is mazes, the standard map that works fine for the base game becomes totally useless.

Going into the second DLC, I found a similar maze set up, but then I found a map that actually showed the area properly. I wondered, did they add a map to the other DLC? Yes. Then I thought maybe I was confused and they had always had maps. But no, I checked the patch history, and the game makers added in maps for both new areas. With maps, both stages are vastly improved, leading me to ask, why make me find a map at all? Why not just bake it into the stage and be less obtuse?

Before I go on, I should mention that I have at this point finished one hundred percent of the trophies for this game. Every area, character, DLC character, and secret character has been unlocked. So when I say I’ve thoroughly combed through the whole game, I mean it. Hell, I’ve even taken to doing single weapon challenge runs just to sort out which characters are really OP. (Hint, they’re Pugnala, Queen Sigma, and Cavallo, as well as DLC survivors Miang, Lumaire, and Sammy. Many others are good for a challenge run, but these beasts can be good to go within six minutes of starting a single weapon run.) Continue reading

Game review: Party Hard

It’s probably not going to be much of a surprise that immediately after playing the last game with a near total “kill everyone” mindset, I decided to get a game where the objective is to literally kill everyone. The main difference is, in Party Hard, your character is allowed to be seen by all their potential victims. They’re just more concerned with making the stabby bits stealthy.

I had tried to play the mobile version back when I was sampling Google Play Pass, but it kept throwing up a debug error menu that blocked the entire screen. Despite the PC version also being made in the Unity engine, it doesn’t have the same errors, and it was a whole lot more stable than Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, another Unity game with far worse performance. While there were a few glitches during my playthrough (more on those later), Party Hard was a mostly smooth gaming experience. Even better, despite its grim premise, it’s a mostly fun, if somewhat difficult game.

What makes one hard game fun for me, while another drove me nuts? I can’t offer a blanket explanation, but I think Party Hard succeeds because of the way every run is slightly randomized. The placement of items, traps, victims, and guards changes each time the killer fails to get the job done, so rather than try to look for a pattern, I just went with the flow and improvised until I found the right plan to “Kill them all!” Continue reading

Game review: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

Let’s just get one thing out of the way first: I don’t really care much for stealth games. As a mechanic added to other games, it’s…mostly fine, though still quite badly implemented. Pick any example you like: Fallout, Skyrim, Far Cry, Horizon: Zero Dawn; they’re all the same. You shoot one dude in a camp, and all his buddies jump up to start searching for the killer…for 30 seconds. Then they all say something dumb like “Guess it was just the wind.” Yes, it was just the wind that put an arrow in your buddy’s skull.

Pure stealth takes away all other options and tells players, “No, you do it my way or you’ll die horribly over and over.” But it still falls back on the thirty second search and forget formula, so all it takes to win is buttloads of patience and save scrubbing.

But as I’ve mentioned before, our connection is slow due to technical difficulties and keeping me from the games I want to play and review. I saw Epic Games Store had a summer sale going on, and I figured why not get something out of my comfort zone? It had controller support, and a tactical stealth game certainly seemed like it had potential.

Enter this week’s hit piece, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, or as I prefer to call it, Bobble-head Assassins: Scrub Savers of the Shogun. Before I really get into the negativity, I will point out the things I thought were nice. Just know that it’s a real short list of likes before I dive right into a full-on hate rant. Continue reading

What has always been, and will always be bad about always online games

You may know from my recent blog posts and my Twitter stream that I have been playing Path of Exile. You may have also heard that this week there was a freak flood in Milan that involved hail and a “river of ice.” These two things may not seem related, except the local server for Path of Exile is in Milan.

In an update post, I’d already written how problems with TIM, our internet provider, had forced me to take several days off from the game. But this latest problem with the flood isn’t just affecting Path of Exile. No, I can’t play a single online game right now because bad weather has reduced our online speeds back to “digital dirt road” levels.

I’m not knocking TIM, because even if they have some slow times, they are rarely down and gone for any length of time. I’m not even knocking Path of Exile itself, as it’s been a pretty good time. (Although the last act I played was pretty unbalanced, with a boss fight so terrible, I was shouting “That should have been a cut scene!”) No, this time I want to talk about how this current local disaster highlights the logical flaw in pushing for all games to be always online or live services. Continue reading