Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus

The New Colossus is not The New Order. That much should be obvious from the title, but I want to make it perfectly clear. If you go into The New Colossus expecting more of the tone or content of The New Order, you will be disappointed. I know this because for the first half of the game, I was disappointed.

The New Colossus picks up immediately after the events of The New Order. You’ve dealt the Nazis a defeat, but not a killing blow, and they’re still in charge. But instead of liberating Europe, you’re moving on to free America. America surrendered after the Nazis dropped an atomic bomb on New York City, so you and your team of misfits are going to start a new American revolution.

I think maybe I have rose-tinted glasses when thinking back to The New Order, because I recall handily beating that game on “I am Death Incarnate” difficulty (the highest you can start with) and loving it. I started The New Colossus the same way and immediately died over and over until I realized that this isn’t fun and dialed the difficulty down to their version of “medium”. Even with the difficulty turned down, the game is still very challenging because you die very quickly if you don’t have armor. Even when you do have armor, there isn’t much indicating you’re being shot or where you’re being shot from until that armor has evaporated, and then you’re essentially done for.

However, the shooting and action does feel great. Enemies visibly react to being shot, weapons all have an appropriate punch to them, and heavy weapons can make you feel invincible. When you’re not sneaking around( which is still an option), you can run, dodge, shoot from cover, and melee, all of the options you want from an solid action game.

Thematically, The New Colossus is about revolution, and not the dour, grim game that The New Order frequently was. It rapidly switches from Nazi oppression and fascism on display to humor and humanity. It’s more rollercoaster than whiplash though, handled in a manner that few games can pull off. It’s a game that will shock you sometimes, but the shocks aren’t meaningless. They serve a purpose.

I’ve heard plenty of other people say that anyone wanting to play Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus should turn the difficulty down to easy and run through it, which I don’t particularly agree with. The action is fun and worth engaging with, even though it does suffer from lack of feedback. And running through the levels to get to the next cutscene neglects the wealth of background information in the well-done collectibles as well as the beautifully designed levels themselves. Maybe take one approach or the other, but play it. It doesn’t quite live up to The New Order, but it’s still an excellent addition to the series.

Below the cut are some thoughts and notes that will contain spoilers. This is your only warning.


Reference: Machine Games (developer). Wolfenstein 2: The New Colosssus [Bethesda Softworks, 2017]

Source: Purchased via Humble Store

Continue reading Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus

Thoughts on Patreon changes

Patreon is changing how they charge patrons for their pledges in a confusing way that’s probably going to hurt creators in the short term. I’m not a creator. I’m a patron, pledged to six creators that don’t always produce a pledge charge monthly.

The change is explained here in language that isn’t particularly clear. The gist of it is that instead of charging me what I’ve pledged and taking their service fees out of what they pay to my creators, they’re going to charge me what I’ve pledged, plus a flat fee, plus a percentage per pledge to cover those service fees. This ultimately gives my creators and Patreon more money at my expense.

The bottom line is that I don’t know what I’m going to be charged next month to support the creators I’ve pledged to. Some of them are charged per month, some of them are charged per item produced, and I don’t know if those per-pledge charges are going to be applied to each item produced or once per creator.

Last month, I spent $17 supporting creators on Patreon. I can look at the list of charges and what each pledge was and it simply adds up to $17. By my math, with the same pledges, Patreon is going to charge me an additional $2.25 or $2.60 depending on how they apply the fees.

I can shoulder the additional cost. The money isn’t a big deal. The problem is that they’ve instantly added 15% to what I’m spending supporting Patreon creators. And the smaller the pledge, the more their fees are adding to it. For the odd $1 pledge, they’ve added charges equal to 37.9% of what I’m already paying. If you’re a patron with a lot of $1 pledges to many creators, congratulations; your charges are going to go up by more than a third of what you previously paid.

This sudden increase is sure to cause patrons to reevaluate how many pledges they’re willing to make monthly, particularly those with low dollar amounts. That $0.35 flat fee per pledge is a real killer. I’m personally not going to stop supporting the creators I pledge to on Patreon because most of my pledges are not that small, but this will absolutely cause me to reevaluate the small pledges I do make. I’ve seen some creators trying to come up with different tier costs to reduce the effect of these new charges on their patrons, which is admirable, but Patreon is putting them in a bad position.

Patreon should’ve been more conscious of their creators and they definitely should be more open with patrons about how much their next bill is going to be. The sticker shock next month could really damage their creators’ income for the following month as patrons unhappy about the new charges drop their pledges. It’s billed as a win for creators, and I hope it is, but it feels like it’s going to cause a backlash against them.

Brigador: Up-Armored Edition

GREAT LEADER HAS DIED. SOLO NOBRE MUST FALL.

Neon lights, an authority violently overthrown, and buildings that crumble like they’re made out of ash under your mech’s stomping feet, all to a synth soundtrack. Brigador knows exactly what it wants to be. The good news is that it mostly achieves its vision, with a couple hiccups.

You play as a mercenary collecting a paycheck by completing missions in support of the Solo Nobre Concern. They’re offering a ticket offworld if you can help them overthrow the factions controlling the city of Solo Nobre. You’ll do this in an isometric action game from a variety of mechs, tanks, and anti-grav vehicles with dozens of weapons.

At first look, Brigador might remind you of the classic Strike series (Jungle Strike, Desert Strike, Nuclear Strike, etc) of helicopter action games, due to the vehicle selection and third-person isometric perspective. That’s not a terrible comparison, but Brigador offers a lot more. Not only is there more vehicles, weapons, and pilots, but more depth to the combat.

You’re armed with two weapons, and an auxiliary ability. Each weapon has its own fire rates, and their own behaviors. There are the standard machine guns and cannons, but also mortars, lasers, and shotgun-type weapons. Your mouse controls not only set the direction of fire, but also the range of fire, so you can launch mortars over walls, spray smoke canisters in semi-circles or lines, and shoot over or past enemies. This is cool in a lot of ways for the level of control it gives you over the destruction you’re going to rain down, but it complicates what is otherwise a fairly simple action game. Instead of just pointing in the direction of the bad guys and firing away, you’ve got to actually consider their distance and aim so that you’re not shooting in front of or over them. If you can’t get this and just treat it like any twin-stick shooter, you’re going to have limited, frustrating success.

The campaign mode offers a couple dozen missions with premade pilot/vehicle/weapon combinations that are fun, but it’s kind of training wheels for the operations mode, which is much more freeform. Operations mode lets you select any pilot, vehicle, weapon you desire, and go on a multi-map romp with an open set of objectives and building difficulty. Early options and low level pilots offer easy difficulty and a couple maps to stomp through, but unlocking high level pilots will greatly increase the resistance and later operations become endurance runs to see if you can manage to keep up your health and ammo count across several sprawling maps.

The music of Brigador is also notable for perfectly pairing this dystopian mech action with Vanity and Makeup Sets synth sounds. It’s a beautifully drawn game with a moody soundtrack that comes together very well. However, some of the weapon sounds could use some work. In particular, big cannons don’t really sound like the size they are. They nail the whirring sound of very large machine guns though, which is great.

Brigador is a great action game after you’ve figured out its quirks. It’ll frequently overwhelm and stomp on you, but rarely to the point of frustration. Your implements of carnage come in a large variety, so there’s a ton of action to be had. It’s only slightly marred by disadvantaged by doing more than action games of this nature normally do when it comes to weapon control, but that’s a gift once you’ve got the hang of it.


Reference: Stellar Jockeys (developer). Brigador: Up-Armored Edition [Stellar Jockeys, 2016]

Source: Purchased via Steam

ICEY

ICEY calls itself a meta game in disguise but that disguise is real thin. When the game exits the prologue, there is a narrator constantly commentating on your actions. The narrator is the meta game part of this otherwise familiar 2D action game, and one of its biggest detractors.

You play as ICEY, a clone in a tank, or maybe a cyborg, and you have to find and kill Judas. He’s the bringer of the apocalypse, that wicked devil. At the start, that’s it. The narrator and environment reveals more of the story, sort of.

The gameplay is simple sidescrolling action. Move to the right, mash the light or heavy attack until the enemies die, then use money to upgrade your combos or life meter. It’s competent and mostly fun without getting too repetitive, but the game is rather short.

What makes ICEY unique is the Stanley Parable-esque narrator. He tells you where to go or not to go, what to do, sometimes even why you’re doing it. The narrator frequently breaks the fourth wall and addresses the player directly. He talks a lot, and the game touches on a broad range of stuff from player choice to the elder gods.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It feels like there’s something to it, some message, but it’s all given to you in bits and pieces. None of it really adds up. Also, the voice acting on the narrator is bad. It’s lifeless, and stiff. Worse, the narrator is ever present. The bad narration follows you everywhere. If you can’t get over it, you’re never going to enjoy the game.

Some of the ideas may have been lost in translation. The developers are Chinese, so it may make more sense if it were played in Chinese. But there’s not a lot of excuses for the narrator. He’s a central figure in the game and one of the least enjoyable parts. Despite these problems, I enjoyed ICEY. It’s got enough weird in it that I wanted to press on to see what else it’d do, and the action is fun. But it’s hard to deny that the time wouldn’t be better spent on The Stanley Parable and Dust: An Elysian Tail, both of which do well the narration and action parts (respectively) of what ICEY tries to accomplish.


Reference: FantaBlade Network (developer). ICEY [X.D. Network, 2017]

Source: Purchased via Steam

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

If Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is anything other than an enjoyable video game, it’s a value proposition. Developers Ninja Theory are no stranger to big budgets; they made Heavenly Sword for Sony, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West for just about every platform, and the most recent Devil May Cry game for Capcom. They know how to spend money, so it’s interesting that they’ve separated from big publishers to develop and publish Hellblade at a $30 price. The end product is mostly good.

In Hellblade, you play as titular Senua, traveling deep into Nordic territory to rescue the soul of your murdered lover. In the vein of what Ninja Theory does best, it’s a third person character action game. What makes Hellblade unique is that Senua suffers from hearing disembodied voices and seeing things that don’t exist.

A lot of the marketing around the game has to do with the challenge in trying to portray a character with mental illness. Plenty of games have tried and it’s almost always a flat portrayal of someone who’s zany or unpredictable without a lot of nuance. With the help of consultants in the neurological sciences, Ninja Theory has crafted a tortured, sympathetic character in Senua.

Another aspect of the game that reflects Ninja Theory’s experience and skill is in the look of it. It’s a beautiful game with some really incredible motion capture, particularly in the faces. They don’t look like video game faces; they’re expressive and emotional every time you see them. This really helps with connecting to the characters and feeling what they feel.

While they nailed the characters and look of the game, the game parts are kind of lacking. Each level of the game will have you doing one of two things: finding hidden objects in the environment, or fighting. The hidden object stuff is mostly clever, but it’s almost always boiled down to aligning objects in the right perspective to find the symbol you’re looking for. It doesn’t change much from beginning to end.

The combat is also not very robust. There are five enemies, excluding bosses, that you will encounter in small groups. The challenge is to keep them away from your back as they’ll try to flank you to attack. With infinite ability to dodge, and most attacks blockable, the only thing that has to be figured out is reading attacks to time blocks (or dodge), and how many whacks it’s going to take to kill the enemy. It’s fun for a while, but it really wore me down by the end. You’ve got one weapon, so once you’ve figured out how to use it, combat loses its shine.

But the thin combat and environment puzzles couldn’t keep me from seeing it through to the end. Senua and the darkness that haunts her was compelling enough on her own to keep me playing. What Ninja Theory set out to do, make a high quality game at an indie price point, is successful as long as you keep your expectations at the sub-blockbuster level.


Reference: Ninja Theory (developer). Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice [Ninja Theory, 2017]

Source: Purchased via Humble Store

Non-Review: Destiny 2 by Bungie (developer)

Nameless Midnight is my favorite weapon. It’s a scout rifle with explosive rounds and decreased recoil. It’s good in PVP, but it’s amazing in PVE. Every shot is a bloom of damage numbers. With sixteen rounds, I can empty a room with it. Dump a whole magazine into an elite enemy and I’ve probably killed it. Since it’s a scout rifle, it’s second only to a sniper for range too, so I don’t even have to be close. It’s not even an exotic weapon, so I can still carry my Hard Light as a backup. They’re an amazing pair.

One of the most damning things I can say about Destiny 2 is that it’s more Destiny. Outside of dozens of quality-of-life upgrades (like not having to level weapons or worry about stat rolls), it’s very much the same game in function. There are about a dozen storyline missions, twice as many sidequests, and an almost limitless number of background activities. There’s PVP multiplayer with a handful of modes and maps. You still can’t matchmake into a Nightfall strike (a more difficult three-person mission), and you still can’t matchmake into a raid (a time-consuming dungeon crawl for six people), but they’ll give you some tools you can use to find people to play with. Instead of relying on grinding out strikes in the hopes of getting a good roll on a reward weapon, you get a weekly list of activities that promise better equipment with a relatively short time commitment. But the game is mostly the same.

There are two reasons this is a non-review. The first reason is that Destiny 2 is so similar to Destiny that I may as well copy-paste that review into this one. If you didn’t like Destiny, it’s really unlikely Destiny 2 is doing anything to win you over. The core of the game is the same. And if you’re a Destiny fan, good news! Here’s another 30 hours of new Destiny to play. It has cutscenes and a story now. It’s great!

The other reason is that part of the game that is reportedly the very best it offers is the raid, and I’m not ashamed to admit that, as an adult, I can’t glue five more friends together to commit to something like six hours of consecutive game time. I’ll be lucky if I can get two more to join me for a Nightfall strike. I understand the reasons why Bungie didn’t include matchmaking for the raid, but I’m so very disappointed that I’ll never experience it because it requires such a high bar of commitment. The raid might be the thing that pushes Destiny 2 from a very solid 8 to a 10, but not everyone is going to get that experience.

Compared to Destiny, it feels like a gift that Destiny 2 only requires about 5 hours of time to check the boxes on some weekly tasks to get loot worth chasing. I’m happy with Nameless Midnight and I’ll keep feeding more powerful weapons to it because I like Nameless better. But there are things in this game I’ll never see, and that sucks. It ultimately hurts the game that it tries to strike a balance between people who only have 5 hours to play per week, and those who have 5 hours to play per day. It’s “fair” for me to review Destiny 2 without ever seeing that stuff, but I won’t. You should know what you’re getting into when you play Destiny 2, and that means reading all these words I wrote about it.


Reference: Bungie (developer). Destiny 2 [Activision, 2017]

Source: Purchased via Microsoft Store

SoHP: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (movie)

I’ve been putting this off subconsciously and consciously for weeks now. I’ve had little desire to watch another mediocre movie. Today, I bit the bullet and watched it. Huge shock, it’s terribly Hollywood! More so than the previous movies, it felt like this one was really on fast-forward. They barely hit all of the critical plot points, and that’s it. It’s missing every single thing that didn’t have to do with the Tri-wizard Tournament, and a ton of stuff that does have to do with it but isn’t absolutely necessary.

These movies continue to do a disservice to the novels, so who are they for? I guess they’re just kids action movies. But if those kids had read the novels, they would likewise find the movies disappointing. I have enough reason to believe kids would notice the same differences I do, and likely more if they’re re-reading these novels frequently because they love them. But if the novels are not supposed to be on-ramps for the movies (because the movies aren’t made for fans), then they’re still not doing a good job of building the brand. If you manage to enjoy the movie enough to seek out the books, the books will ruin future movies for you. And if you don’t enjoy the movies, why would you watch any more of them? There are eight of these things!

A Confession

I have a confession to make. Some games make me so anxious to play them that I don’t play them. The absolute worst thing in the entire world (1) is the feeling that I’m wasting time, even when I’m playing video games. This is why I dread playing multiplayer games and I’ll never get into something like Dota 2. If I spend 45 minutes playing a game, I don’t want to lose. I can’t play RTS games, because if I do something dumb and screw up so bad that the whole mission is a waste, I’m not going to go back to it. I can’t play XCOM. I can’t shake the feeling that everything I do is going to lead to me failing the whole game because I let a rookie die. Even save scumming doesn’t help because I don’t recognize long-term problems until it’s too late. I’m not going to back to an earlier save to correct a problem if I’ve wasted hours learning I screwed up.

Where this truly bites me in the ass is when I use this excuse to avoid playing games that I genuinely enjoy and would have a great time with if I could just get over myself. It took me a decade to play Deus Ex because I wanted to see and do everything. It took me 10 years to realize that it was stopping me from playing a really good game and it’s not even vital to the game to “see and do everything”. You shouldn’t play it that way. I used the same excuse to avoid Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, a game I really, really loved once I got into it.

Today, this is manifesting in my third serious attempt at Dishonored 2. I was really excited for Dishonored 2. Then I started it and all of the choices and freedom overwhelmed me. I stopped playing almost immediately after the tutorial. Later, I came back to it and got halfway into the first real mission. I got to a room with an upgrade rune in it that I couldn’t figure out how to retrieve without murdering a lot of people. I’m trying not to murder anyone, so this was a real problem. Since I couldn’t get that rune, I quit.

But today, I got over it. I just finished that level leaving behind two runes. And I’m okay with that. I had fun. That’s what’s important! Video games should be fun. If they’re stressing me out, I’m not going to play them, but some of it is give and take. The time loss with RTS and MOBA games isn’t something I can avoid. It’s part of the game. But a stealth/action game with tons of options on how to play has those options so that you can feel free to enjoy it, not constrained by artificial limits.

So tomorrow, I’ll forget I wrote this and drop Dishonored 2 again.


  1. Literally not the worst thing in the world.

SoHP: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Did you think #SoHP was over??? It’s not over! It just took me too long to read this book because it’s significantly longer than the previous three! I’m beginning to think the Summer of Harry Potter is going to bleed into the Autumn of Harry Potter, and maybe even the Winter of Harry Potter.

I liked the Goblet of Fire despite the Triwizard Tournament. How weak was the competition that Harry Potter, a couple years junior of all of the participants, was able to beat them fairly handily? Did none of them have friends like Ron and Hermione? I get that Crouch was cheating to support him, but the tournament was designed for wizards of the age and skill of Diggory, Krum, and Delacour. Where were the officials who were supposed to keep someone like Crouch from interfering?

But Goblet of Fire did a ton to progress the overall plot of Voldemort’s return. I do find it a little funny that, even surrounded by evil wizards and fighting the newly reborn Voldemort, Harry Potter is able to survive. I know, this story ending here wasn’t going to happen, but I guess we need to handwave the lack of power the totally scary Voldemort has when he’s just been pulled out of a cauldron.

I also loved the introduction of the Death Eater trials and Aurors. I was way into the character of Mad-Eye Moody until he was revealed to actually be Crouch. He had me convinced; Crouch as Moody acted like someone who’s been fighting dark wizards for ages. Paranoid but vigilant, on the verge of seeing dark wizards in every shadow, which is understandable considering Moody was an Auror during Voldemort’s reign of terror. Moody’s probably seen some real shit.

The last five chapters or so (when the third task starts) really sucked me in, so I’m ready to pick this back up and start The Order of the Phoenix!

SoHP: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (movie)

I was about to complement this movie for hewing closer to the book than the previous two, but I started thinking about what was missing and now I’m mad again.

It completely glosses over the connections between Harry’s father, Lupin, Pettigrew, Black, and Snape. In fact, I don’t think they ever make the connection between them and their animagus aliases or how the Shrieking Shack became the Shrieking Shack, or who made the Marauder’s Map or why. That’s really important stuff for motivations between these characters, and it reveals a lot of Harry’s father’s history, which he knows absolutely nothing about.

The conflicts between Crookshanks and Scabbers, and the problems they cause for Hermione and Ron are mostly ignored. The deteriorating condition of Scabbers is gone. And then there’s the weird bonus scene where Harry chases Pettigrew with the Marauder’s Map. And all of the Quidditch stuff is dropped after Harry falls off of his broom in the game against Hufflepuff.

So just like the previous two movies, this one is still a mess. It makes changes that don’t make a lot of sense.

But something I forgot to complain about in the novel is that WIZARDS CAN MANIPULATE TIME. Holy hell, two thirteen year old wizards are given an artifact that lets them go back in time and permanently change the course of events for the rest of the story. They’re concerned about Sirius Black getting a hold of the Marauder’s Map because he could track Harry with it, but there are artifacts in this world that can manipulate time. Talk about messed up priorities.

Ne Cede Malis